The Shadow Year
by Hannah Richell
published by Orion Publishing
I love when She Reads picks a book that I might not have reached for myself, and The Shadow Year is just such a book. It is the story of two narrators in two separate times, drawn together by a beautiful lake and a charming cottage. In 1980, five friends decide to take a year off and drop out of civilization together in a small cottage by a lake. 30 years later, Lila is recovering from a debating miscarriage when she receives a letter from a solicitor informing her that she has been left a key to a small cottage. Lila tries to heal herself and the cottage, spending weeks away from her suffering husband while she renovates.
I am usually a fan of the dual narrative, and it works well here. I thought this book was very well written and the story captivating. These are the pro of the book. Unfortunately, the downside was one I just couldn’t get past. In the part of the book that takes place in the 1980’s, there are five characters. Kat is the narrator, and she is sharing the cottage with her four friends. Put simply, I despised Kat. She was an awful person. The only other character in this part of the book that we get to know at all is Simon, and he is pretty awful too. The other characters are not fleshed out much, therefore there wasn’t someone to balance out these two. It reminded me a little of the end of The Dinner, with all those awful people. I did love the part with Lila. I enjoyed rooting for her to get past her pain, and slowly fall in love with the beautiful cottage and lake as she slowly renovates it. I wish I could go and relax by that beautiful lake!
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On a sultry summer’s day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her friends, it offers an escape; a chance to drop out for a while, with lazy summer days by the lake and intimate winter evenings around the fire. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.
Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? Why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can t she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her?